Cover Image: Starter Villain

Starter Villain

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Member Reviews

Fun and funny. I don’t know many other books like Scalzi’s recent funny sci-fi. Douglas Adams? Terry Pratchett? 
The book is ridiculous and fast-enough-paced that I didn’t spend much time thinking about how bonkers it is. 
I loved it!
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I was initially drawn to this title because, last year, I ended up receiving a copy of John Scalzi's book, The Kaiju Preservation Society, from NetGalley and it ended up being one of my favorite books. So when I saw this title I was also intrigued. 

Just as in the previous title I read, this book was a fun mix of humor and social commentary, only instead of focusing on animals and the preservation of them, this focused on villains and just kind of the whole business industry as a whole. 

I really enjoyed the characters, the weird little twists, and the humor. Scalzi is also very great at the kind of serious, but humorous and irreverent dialogue. 

Overall I very much enjoyed this book and look forward to anything similar by Scalzi in the future.
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I absolutely was not anticipating how much I would love Starter Villain by John Scalzi. I just picked this book up because it was short and was promised to be funny. Starter Villain is about Charlie who is living a sort of dead end life. He is a divorced substitute teacher living in the house his dad left behind -- which his siblings want him to sell so they can split the money. One day Charlie is informed that his Uncle Jake has died. He has not had contact with his uncle since he was five. It turns out his uncle was more than just a parking structure magnate -- he left behind a multibillion dollar empire and was something of a super villain. Now it is on Charlie to figure out how to run the villain empire. He's not alone -- he has the help of super intelligent cats, unionizing dolphins, and his uncle's assistant, Morrison.

Starter Villain is a fast paced read. I walked in thinking it would be slow because the font is small. However, the plot really just zooms on by. Charlie kept surprising me in all the best ways. I loved his unexpected wit and how he handled some of the situations he was placed in. I also loved the cats - surprisingly. There were parts of this book where I laughed out loud too. Also, I felt like there was a nod to Douglas Adams with the whole dolphins thing. Read Starter Villain by John Scalzi for a clever adventure that happens when one comes into a large, unexpected inheritance.
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I adored this book. The cover definitely drew me in, but the humor, fast-paced plots, and strange characters kept my attention throughout. If you are looking for a dangerous, yet light-hearted read with dolphins forming a union, references to Austin Powers, poorly-planned villainous schemes, and a plot that truly honors the intelligence of cats, grab this book!
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I’m not a huge SciFi fan and I honestly only picked this book because of the cat on the cover. I’ve had this for a few months now but I kept putting off reading it. After seeing that it made the final round of the Goodreads voting, I decided it was time to read it, and I’m glad I did!
Charlie is a divorced 32 year old substitute teacher living in his late Dad’s house, driving his late Dad’s car, and the only other living thing in his life is his cat, Hera. Things aren’t looking so great for him until he learns his uncle, with whom he has no relationship, has died and left his business and all of its assets to Charlie. Charlie is very surprised to learn that his uncle was a super villain and multitrillionaire and being his only heir, he wants Charlie to take over his business including his volcano lair and dealing with the other villains out there. 
This was so much more funny than I expected and I would categorize it more as a comedy than a sci-fi. Charlie is extremely likable from the get go and the antics he has to deal with had me laughing out loud quite frequently. 
I loved how fast paced this book was and I loved how it kept me guessing. John Scalzi has created an amazing world filled with cats who communicate with humans, dolphins who form a union, and villains who are out for only one thing (and it’s not to conquer the world). I might not be into sci-fi, but Mr, Scalzi has hooked me with this book and I’ll definitely give his other books a try.
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Despite the fact that I really like cats (I’ve had cats living with me for about half a century) and I really like science fiction – with John Scalzi being one of my favorite, working writers – I am always leery about picking up a book with cats as a leading or major character. I suspect this comes from reading some Andre Norton books with cats as characters, which I did not enjoy.  And so I looked at this new Scalzi novel with a very hesitant eye. Frankly, if it wasn’t Scalzi, I’d have completely ignored it (of course there are presumably many who would pick this up because it has a cat on the cover).

Charlie Fitzer is a bit down on his luck.  A former newspaper journalist now teacher at a small college, Charlie lives in his parents’ old home, which irks his siblings terribly.  They’d much rather he moved out so they could sell the house and be done with it since they are technically the owners.

Charlie would like very much to buy the local pub – the place he has always gone for a drink ever since his school days, and where the college students still go for their first drink.  But Charlie doesn’t have any collateral, and definitely doesn’t have any money.

Until his uncle Jake passes away.

He’s never been close to Jake, but still, Jake Baldwin leaves his nephew an absolute fortune. And … a bit of danger.  And … some highly evolved, highly educated, talking animals. Like cats, and dolphins, and whales, and ….

What Jake leaves to his nephew is his business, which is – being a villain. Charlie is going to have to get used to being mean and manipulative and not trust anyone, especially the other villains who want to help him out.  Fortunately he’ll have a companion to guide him.  His house cat.  The cat can’t talk (that would be ridiculous!), but it can type messages for him.

Charlie’s got a lot to learn in very little time.

If you didn’t tell me this was written by John Scalzi I think I’d be able to figure it out within the first couple of pages anyway.  This has got Scalzi’s ‘voice’ all over it. From the snarky comments given by some of the characters, to the Tourette’s-like cussing dolphins, to the easily-overcome bad guys (our hero just needs to get a little creative), there are some obvious Scalzi signs here.  What’s missing, though, is a story with a bit of a kick.

This story is all surface action. We go from Point A to Point B with everything laid out before us as we go.  There’s no hidden surprise or tangent storyline that will intersect at some point.  No convoluted characters we need to figure out.  It’s all right there, in your face obvious all along.

Charlie is our main character and he’s a lot like any ‘reluctant hero’ in scifi these days.  A nobody until he’s needed to be a little better. He’s essentially ‘good’ and maybe a bit too trusting but we know things are going to work out for him in the end, it’s his journey that we’re reading about.  But this journey is just too direct. Where’s the conflict? The antagonists are like Keystone Cops. Such bumbling fools we never, ever take them seriously enough to see them as a threat.

There’s an attempt to maybe … MAYBE provide a little twist at the end, but it’s very cliche and predictable.

It’s a John Scalzi book, so I enjoyed it for his voice, but I’d classify this under humor first, fantasy second.  This is very much ‘beach read’ material.  The sort of book you will read in an afternoon and then leave it for someone else to read and some day you might remember a moment from the book and think to yourself, “But what book was that in?”

Looking for a good book? Starter Villain by John Scalzi is a quick, direct, fun read that won’t change your life but may divert your attention for a couple of hours.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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This was so fun! Typing spy cats who own more real estate than I'll ever own, dolphins that are trying to form a workers union while cursing like sailors, and a main character that doesn't want to be a villain but is thrown into the world that forces him to be. What more could you want?
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Caught in a web of lies and plots when thrown into a cabal of villains after his estranged uncle dies and wills his entire evil empire to him Charlie struggles to understand this new life and survive.  His new life is complicated by genetically enhanced cats and dolphins and the unspoken rules of the cabal of villains.  

I found this book to be slow in developing and tedious.  I didn't find much of the story amusing except for occasional bursts of Scalzi's usual snarky conversation.  The characters were thinly developed and stereotypical.  The story seemed to be developing at the end to only fall flat for me.  

I've enjoyed the author's many early books but I found this most recent attempt uninteresting.
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I had no idea what to expect going into this book but it's one of my favorites of the year. It's ridiculously smart, super funny and features talking cats. Just read it and thank me later.

Thanks to Tor Books for the copy to review.
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Divorced substitute teacher Charlie's life changes dramatically - and in rather unimaginable ways - on the death of his billionaire uncle Jake. 

Charlie gradually learns that his uncle dealt in 'the sort of technologies and services that bring disruptive change' and then sold them to interested parties. 

Turns out Jake was the super-villain, Charlie is now a starter villain, and all sorts of villainous organizations are jockeying (with extreme violence) to take over!

Great fun!
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Hands down one of my favorite reads this year!! I had such a fun time being in this world. Imagine finding out you’re basically an heir to a villainous empire?! I couldn’t stop reading this when I picked it up. And the cats?! I love them and want one for myself. Thank you for giving me a chance to read this. I do own a physical copy now. John Scalzi has become one of my favorite authors.
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Charlie finds himself at a crossroads, with his life seemingly stuck in neutral. A divorced substitute teacher, residing in a house his siblings are keen on selling, his primary ambition is to secure a loan and fulfil his dream of opening a pub downtown. The odds, however, rest in the hands of the discerning bank.

Unexpectedly, Charlie's life takes a whimsical turn when his long-lost uncle Jake passes away, bequeathing his supervillain enterprise, complete with an island volcano lair, to Charlie.

Yet, the reality of becoming a supervillain doesn't align with the extravagant imagery of giant laser death rays and lava pits. Jake had made formidable enemies, and now they set their sights on Charlie. These adversaries are not your run-of-the-mill villains; they are powerful, soulless entities backed by multinational corporations and venture capital.

Despite his uncle's more old-fashioned and principled approach to villainy, Charlie must navigate the treacherous waters of real-world villainy. The narrative unfolds into a delightful, light-hearted tale, featuring a relatable fish-out-of-water protagonist and a cadre of remarkably intelligent cats. The story takes unexpected turns, introducing elements like a dolphin labour dispute, insufferable techbros, and, of course, a volcano island lair. The book is peppered with laugh-out-loud moments and clever twists, making it an enjoyable and entertaining read.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for sending a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I wish I could write "the dolphins unionize" and leave this review at that, but I suppose something more substantial is probably best.

Charlie is down on his luck. His marriage fell apart, his career is underwhelming, his siblings are fighting over his childhood home, and he can't get a loan to buy a beloved pub in his neighborhood. At least he has his beloved cat Hera, who came to him when he needed her most.

When his uncle Jake dies and leaves his supervillain business to Charlie, he's unsure what to think. Planning the funeral was a bizarre enough experience, like the aggressive messages left on flowers and the man who tried to stab his uncle's corpse "just to check if he's really dead."

Now Jake's enemies are Charlie's enemies, and Charlie will have to outmaneuver the guys trying to sabotage his uncle's business. Things get worse when he discovers he can't even throw his enemies in the lava pit to send a message since lava is denser than water.

Don't even mention the fact that Jake trained cats to become spies. 

Starter Villain was a delight from beginning to end. I've only read two other Scalzi books and keep meaning to pick up his other titles. Scalzi's sense of humor is close to mine, so if you don't like sarcasm and banter between characters, this won't be your cup of tea. But Lorelai Gilmore raised me, so this book is one of my 2023 favorites.

Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Books for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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4.75/5 stars

Hilarious, crazy, and an all around FUN read!

Scalzi has somehow managed to create one of the most relatable characters and dropped them into the most ridiculous, unbelievable storyline in a way that is so seamless it seems almost plausible. The humor is top notch, and ***THE CATS***

Definitely recommend to anyone who needs a fun read and a good laugh.
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I have heard a lot about John Scalzi, but had never read any of his previous work until this one, and what a delight it was! 

This is super fun (beginning with this amazing cover) and a fast read. I didn't know anything about the plot, and was pleasantly surprised by where it went. It was great to be introduced in the villainy world along Charlie and his 
sentient cats. A lot happens to him in a short time and I loved the reason why this all came down. 

I wish we had more of the cats, Persephone especially. The dolphins were also great and made me laugh quite a bit. 

This is a very entertaining read and I would recommend it, no doubts.
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5 stars = Outstanding!

This was amazing! Hilarious! Everything I hoped it would be and more. Would definitely read again. I'd love to get a listen to the audio version because Wil Wheaton narrates, and that would be incredible. Scalzi fans should definitely pick this up. And if you've never read him before and you like quirky, funny scifi, absolutely pick this up! (Language, violence)
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Dogs have owners, cats have staff. Or they are the staff that keep the organization running smoothly. John Scalzi fans will be delighted with this fluffy adventure. (That's a cat name, right?) Scalzi, who wrote Old Man's war 15 years ago and had lots of wry comments about aging then, continues to innovate and please readers with what in a more comprehensible world used to be called science fiction. Short and sweet and oh how I wish we had such companions!
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Book Summary:

Charlie's life has hit a bit of a dead-end. His career as a reporter is (probably) over. He's recently divorced, and now he's living in the house he grew up in. Which his siblings aren't too thrilled about, mind you.

Then Charlie's uncle, whom he never met, passes away. In doing so, he left his supervillain business (yes, really) to Charlie. Naturally, this comes with all sorts of complications. Though there is a nice lava pit, so there's that.

My Review:

Oh, my goodness. I knew Starter Villain would be a delightful (not to mention hilarious) read, but it still managed to surprise me! This book is brilliant. It's clever, witty, and has a sense of humor that I love.

Think about it. Supervillain business. Cats. Dolphins. Oh, and a substitute teacher taking charge of all of it. It's so much fun. Throw in the desire to overthrow a few multinational corporations (IE, other supervillains), and you have something going for you. That something happens to be chaos, but it works.

Ironically, I think it's all the side details and elements that I loved the most about this book. The core plot is fun, don't get me wrong. But it's the details that sell this book. Okay, all the twists help, too. What I'm trying to say is that Starter Villain is a blast and a half to read. It's not like your typical superhero/villain book – it's better.

Supervillainy as a Business
Cat Spies
Pro-Union Dolphins
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Hey bookbots! Time for a #bookreview of STARTER VILLAIN by @jscalzi ! Thank you to the author, @netgalley, and the publisher @torbooks for the e-ARC and the finished copy.

If you have ever read John Scalzi books you will know that he has a penchant for mixing sci-fi with hijinks to create fun stories that make you regularly cackle. This one will not disappoint and most importantly, CATS are sentient characters in this one!!!


Charlie is down on his luck - divorced, laid off from his journalism job, and living in his old childhood home after moving back to take care of his ill father before he passed away. Battling his three older siblings for the rights to the property he resides in and living off of a meager substitute teacher salary with his recently acquired cat, Hera (i.e. the cat started coming over and Charlie did not stop it). When his estranged uncle who was a parking garage tycoon dies, a letter is posthumously delivered to Charlie by his uncle's former, very assertive assistant Morrison. At the funeral, Charlie starts to suspect his uncle was not just in the vehicle storage industry as his "mourners" try to stab him to confirm he is dead. From there, Charlie learns even his (now 2) recent cats that he has acquired have been by design of his eccentric, mysterious uncle who has been watching him all these years and whose "business" Charlie is about to inherit...

So much sarcastic commentary on capitalism, absurd wealth, American hierarchy, greed, inheritance, our obsession with tech and more are scrawled on these pages with wit, humor and style.

One of my favorite jabs was Scalzi's description of the tech/finance bros at the conference on their bluetooths/speaker phones and how "They were all performatively "Doing Business" for the benefit of all the rest of them." What a chef's kiss dig on American corporate culture's authenticity problems. When Charlie compares the conference to a cult, Morrison counters, "cults are more fun."🤣

If you like sentient cats, swearing dolphins, secret societies, and generally enjoy funny books, this just might be your jam.

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“We have cats because they amuse us and because otherwise our clothes would lack the texture only cat hair can provide.”

2023 is the year I’m realizing I enjoy science fiction. I have never given the genre much chance before because I just assumed it was going to be too science-y for me. I’m so glad I’ve decided to give it a try because I really am digging it. 

I’ll be honest, the cover actually turned me off of this one. I like cats and all, but I’m not really a cat person. But after reading some early reviews, I decided to give this a try. I was a big fan of the banter and dry humor. The premise was wild but fun. However, there are so many F-bombs throughout that I really struggled to read. If the story weren’t so entertaining otherwise I would have DNF’d, and that’s the reason for my lower star rating. 


Read if you like:
Mafia stories
Rooting for the underdog (or maybe I should say cat?)
Lots of dead bodies
Quick wit and dry humor
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